We’ve all been barraged with the ads. Miracle moisturizers will change your skin, your appearance, and your life—with the right moisturizer changing you from an old crone, back to the smooth, dewy days of your youth.
While we all know that much of this is an attempt to sell us a product, are there genuine reasons that we should use a moisturizer on our skin? What happens to our skin if we stop moisturizing, or never start? How important is it to our face that we moisturize our skin?
How do Moisturizers Work?
The best moisturizers are typically a blend of humectants and emollients. Humectants are ingredients that draw moisture from the air, or from deep below the skin’s surface, to bring it to the skin cells on the surface of the skin to promote deeper hydration. Humectants attract water. Some common humectants used in moisturizers are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, propylene glycol, sorbitol, and allantoin.
Emollients are ingredients that essentially lock moisture into the skin by promoting a strong moisture barrier on the skin’s surface to prevent water from evaporating. Emollients commonly included in moisturizers are petrolatum, mineral oil, plant oils such as cocoa butter and shea butter, and animal oils such as lanolin.
The best moisturizers for dry skin will contain powerful emollients to further promote the moisture barrier for deep healing.
Besides humectants and emollients, moisturizers for the face often include other beneficial anti-aging ingredients such as retinol, and antioxidants to slow the aging process.
Dry Skin is Dull Skin
If you decide to turn your back on moisturizing your face to save money, or a few minutes of time in the morning and evening, your skin will become drier and less supple. This means that over time, your skin may not rebound as well from the thousands of large and small expressive movements that a face makes throughout the day. This can lead to the development of lines and wrinkles in those parts of the face that express emotions. Without moisturizing, dry skin cells build up on the surface of the skin and give the face a dull, grayish appearance.
Dry skin actually becomes inflamed, which means skin may become reddened and chapped in appearance. Inflammation causes aging by inhibiting the skin cells’ ability to produce collagen and elastin, two components of skin that gives it its structure and elasticity. This leads to premature aging with increased lines, wrinkles, sagging, and roughness.
Moisturizer is Your Best Friend with Benefits
While even the most basic moisturizers will improve the texture and appearance of your skin by adding hydration and then sealing that hydration below the surface of the skin, most of the best moisturizers for faces contain many other beneficial ingredients to further improve the appearance of your skin.
Beneficial Ingredients include retinol, a form of vitamin A that can actually help restore normal cell function, effectively making skin cells act more like those found in younger skin. Retinol promotes more collagen production to enhance structure and firmness and diminish fine lines and wrinkles. It encourages cell regeneration, so dry, dead skin cells will more easily slough off, revealing younger, fresher skin beneath for a noticeable glow. Retinol is also beneficial for younger skin, effectively reducing acne breakouts.
Many moisturizers also contain powerful antioxidants either as vitamin C additives, or in natural, plant-based forms, such as green tea, rosehips, and grapeseed oil. Antioxidants can reverse cell damage by combating the free radicals that form inside our skin cells from environmental factors such as UV rays, toxins, and impurities. Antioxidants can increase the skin’s firmness, prevent wrinkles, and also fade discoloration such as sun spots and hyperpigmentation.
Should Those with Oily Skin Use Moisturizers?
Oily skin becomes oily due to overproduction of sebum—the skin’s natural oil. While it may seem counterproductive to add a moisturizer to oily skin, it can actually benefit your skin, even if your skin is oily. Choosing a good moisturizer meant for oily skin typically means you are getting an oil-free moisturizer that adds simple hydration into your skin cells. Hydrating oily skin can slow down the production of sebum. The oil glands in the face produce oils to try to seal hydration into the skin. Adding the hydration your skin needs will help to slow overproduction of oil.
Moisturizing isn’t only for evenings. Applying a good moisturizer with sunscreen to your face in the morning will protect your skin from damaging UV rays to help preserve your skin from aging sun damage. It also forms a nice seal between your skin and your makeup to protect your skin from impurities and seal in moisture.
Adding a morning moisturizer to your skin also helps your makeup to be more evenly and smoothly applied for a more natural look that’s less likely to settle into lines and creases.
Moisturizing in the Winter
In the winter it can be beneficial to moisturize with a good moisturizer for dry skin. The extra emollients will help to protect your skin from the cold dry weather and guard against extreme dryness and chapping.
Getting the Most out of Your Moisturizer
The best time to use your moisturizer is after cleansing your face. After washing, bathing or showering, your skin cells will have absorbed water. Applying your moisturizer at this time will enhance its benefits by sealing in the extra moisture from the water and steam. The warmth will also open your pores, making them more receptive to the benefits of your moisturizer so that both the moisture and the anti-aging ingredients will be more deeply absorbed.
Drinking more water will also help you to get more from your moisturizer. Remember that the emollients in moisturizers are meant to seal hydration into your skin cells and prevent it from evaporating. If there is little water there to begin with, there is less moisture to seal inside. Keeping your body properly hydrated means that your moisturizer will have more natural hydration to work with.
While it’s a good idea to use a daily body moisturizer, and hand lotion as well, the face and neck need special attention. The skin on the face and neck is thinner and more fragile than on the rest of the body. This means it may react more strongly to weather conditions such as sun, wind, and cold. This area is also the most at risk for skin cancer, so using a good moisturizer with sunscreen daily will not only protect your skin’s appearance; it can protect its health and your overall health in general!